(See a blog version of this episode below the show notes.)
If the term “biohacking” conjures up images of Silicon Valley tech bros ingesting weird pills for dinner and plugging all their personal metrics into their iPhone apps, you’d be right. But it’s also things like meditating, using medicinal herbs, and eating for your cycle.
The conventional way the wellness industry talks about biohacking, however, wasn’t really designed for lunar bodies. This episode discusses what it actually is, examples you may or may not be familiar with, and what it can look like for you in a way that doesn’t mess up your hormone health.
- What is biohacking? via Vox
- Mountain Rose Herbs
- Jam Haw Herbals sourcing list
What is biohacking?
Biohacking is basically the science of self-optimization. It’s performing experiments on yourself in order to create a desired outcome, which is to use your body at its highest potential.
There are different levels to biohacking. To mention a few, it’s things you’ve heard of in the wellness world like intermittent fasting, keto, and drinking celery juice, or all the things that Gwyneth Paltrow does, or all the products that Moon Juice sells.
On another level, you have the Tim Ferrises and Dave Aspreys of the world who quantify everything they do so they can find ways to improve their personal metrics, through Bulletproof coffee and ice baths and infrared saunas.
Then you have people who are editing their own DNA through CRISPR technology.
There is a pretty broad range of biohacking strategies and you’re likely doing some of them, because dieting and supplementing are such a large part of it.
Cycle-syncing is biohacking. Eating foods for their nutrient content is biohacking. And so is something called young blood transfusion where people are literally trying to drink from the fountain of youth and pump their bodies with young people’s blood in order to combat aging.
It’s a big umbrella term!
‘Conventional’ biohacking isn’t meant for lunar bodies
You’ll notice when you read about biohacking advice, there are a lot of cis white men involved, and this is not without reason. A lot of biohacking advice is just bullshit, but also much of it is based on research (somewhat loosely for some things, but research nonetheless).
And what do we know about research? We know that cis white men are the standard test subjects. Not only are they willing participants, but they also don’t have a pesky menstrual cycle to muck up the results and make things more difficult.
I’m being somewhat sarcastic, but it’s true that menstrual cycles are often not accounted for in this research, or that menstruators are even included in the studies at an appropriate rate. I’ve mentioned before that a lot of diet research simply isn’t performed with us in mind, and so when it comes to biohacking in terms of nutrition and certain lifestyle factors, a lot of the advice simply isn’t for us.
I’m not inherently against a lot of the things that are considered biohacking, but the advice is often very generalized and still leaves out many people. The conversation is often privileged, elitist, ableist, etc. I also find it a little reductive to lunar bodies in particular because it interprets the body in a very literal way and uses simpler logic than our bodies actually require.
It essentially looks at the body as a machine — X input will create Y output.
The input is things like certain foods, certain exercises, mindfulness practices, supplements, and so on. The output is the desired outcome: better sleep, better metabolism, more energy, more productivity, more mental clarity, stamina, efficiency, longevity.
The ultimate goal is to make your body a well-oiled machine.
But you are not a machine. To treat our bodies like machines is to actively resist our natural cycles. Machines operate the same way every single time you use them. That’s what they’re designed to do.
Lunar bodies generally have four to five weeks of hormonal fluctuations that mean we don’t necessarily operate the same way every single day. So the typical advice out there simply isn’t meant to take that into account.
Much of biohacking talk is just diet culture
Can we talk about how biohacking is just diet culture that works at Google? Tech bros love to take age-old concepts and cloak them in fancy branding and marketing, give it a new name and call it disruption.
A lot of what’s masked as biohacking is actually just disordered eating.
We have the CEO of Twitter restricting his food for 23 hours a day and calling it intermittent fasting. We have the company Soylent making beverages that claim to have all the nutrients you need to function, everything but actual enjoyment — this is the ultimate in using food as fuel only, despite pleasure being a really important part of your health and wellbeing. Not to mention that it’s expensive and unsustainable, and there’s very little fiber. So good luck with that.
My point is — if you are in a lunar body, the conventional biohacking advice out there doesn’t take your needs into consideration.
Following this advice is how we lose connection to our bodies.
The mind-body disconnect
Long before the internet’s neverending distractions and the constant communication of our current culture, it was common to feel connected to your body. Intuition was strong because it had to be. There was no WebMD or Google search to tell you something was wrong, and no apps to identify a mystery plant and tell you if it was poisonous or not.
We listened to the signals from our bodies, and more importantly, we actually understood them.
These days, there is a strong mind-body disconnect. A lot of clients tell me they don’t feel “in tune” with themselves. They want to learn how to hear what their bodies are telling them. But how can you decipher a language you don’t recognize? When you’re so used to the biohacking language and diet culture talk, it’s hard to know what to look for or listen for or to feel in your body.
Being “in tune” with yourself means you understand the messages that your body is sending to you.
It’s a strong awareness of how your body feels (your baseline “normal” feeling), what affects that feeling, and how.
For example, I have new clients keep a food journal, if it feels comfortable to them, where they describe the food they ate and their mood. This gives them insight into how certain foods make them feel or how their feelings may have influenced their food choices and how that made them feel.
Food isn’t the only thing that has an effect on your body. Emotions do as well, and being in tune with yourself means knowing how certain situations will impact you.
So does tracking your every move to self-optimize feel good? Are you having fun with it or are you finding yourself becoming anxious if you miss a day or frustrated when you don’t hit certain targets you’ve set for yourself? Does the behavior feel good or bad?
Knowledge of how these things feel in your body allows you to make informed and intentional choices throughout the day. When you have a better understanding of how your body feels, it’s easier to know when something’s off. This is your intuition talking — the knowing without knowing how you know, you just do!
You are born knowing how to listen to your body. When you were a baby, you cried out for food when you were hungry and stopped eating when you were full. You didn’t care that there were three more bites left, you were done. You cried when you felt sick, when your tummy hurt, when you had a fever.
But diet culture severs that connection, and then it dresses up as fancy biohacking to hack at it some more. So you stop listening to your body’s signals. You ignore the hunger pangs because your fasting app says it’s not time to eat yet. Or you tell yourself you should be satisfied with the portion someone else decided on for you.
You ignore the fact that you don’t actually like any of the food that you’re eating. You are convinced the Euro-centric cisgender model is the only way to look, start comparing yourself to every other person, and lose perspective on how your own body actually looks and feels.
So here you are, trying so hard to do something that wasn’t made for you, which impacts your hormones, causes further stress, and when the results don’t come, who do you blame? Yourself. Then you move on to the next diet, or the next strategy, following rules that take you further away from what your body actually wants.
Biohacking for menstruators
Aligning with your cycle is the biohacking advice that’s meant for your body. And I don’t love the term, but if we’re talking about this concept then yes, that’s our version of it. Following your cycle phases, keeping track of how you feel, giving your body what it needs in each phase in terms of food and exercise and relationships and personal care — that’s self-optimization that can work for you, and that can give you better energy, sleep, productivity and more. But in a way that actually feels sustainable and enjoyable and more peaceful.
Your cycle is a work of art. Aligning with your cycle is a technique that you refine over time that helps you create this beautiful piece of art.
What makes art beautiful? It’s not always perfection. It’s not always coloring in the lines. It’s more how all the colors and lines and shapes interact with each other to create a uniquely satisfying image. The different facets of your cycle intertwine in the same way. You make the brush strokes. Sometimes the paper pushes back. The paint doesn’t settle the way you expect it to. X doesn’t always equal Y. But you know the bigger picture, the reason why you keep going.
I always say this but developing your intuition is foundational to this work, in my opinion. I think it’s one of the first steps, and there are lots of ways you can do it ranging from the practical to the more spiritual.
I mentioned the food journal that can give you an awareness of how food makes you feel, you can also keep a regular journal and just note a few sentences about your day, the day of your cycle or what phase the moon is in, and keep track that way so you have information to look back on and notice patterns. Intuition is information, that library of experiences, and you can actively fill that library by journaling.
You can also meditate, pull tarot cards, repeat mantras, practice reading your akashic records — spend time with yourself so you have the space to get your intuition talking.
Herbs for your intuition
You never need to spend money on anything related to your intuition unless you want to, remember you energy is the only thing you need. However, there’s no harm in seeking out a little boost from our plant friends, which can also be free if you like to garden and if you have a green thumb.
I recommend trying out herbs that are classified as nervines, which means they calm nervous tension. Especially when you’re first starting out, whether it’s with meditating or with reading cards or however you’re practicing developing your intuition, you don’t want to be in an agitated state.
Linden is a safe option that helps with anxiety and nervous tension and is particularly helpful for balancing out stimulating medications like Adderall. It is supportive of the emotional self and has heart-opening qualities, which might be nice to have so you can feel more open and receptive.
Lemon balm is also gentle for anxiety, it helps elevate your mood and is relaxing, especially if you feel tense from stress and worry. It’s a very gentle herb for people of all ages. Skullcap is another one with these qualities that’s safe and effective as well.
Sage can be great for the type of nervous stress that comes from overwhelm, or if you’re a tightly wound, type-A personality. It’s helpful for relieving headaches and lifting brain fog too, both of course are important if you want to keep your mind clear and open to receiving messages.
Out of those, lemon balm and sage are probably the most accessible. You can find lemon balm in tea form at the grocery store, or maybe it’s even growing in your backyard. Sage is used as a culinary spice so it may be even easier to find.
All of these make a great cup of tea that you can sip on and start to relax before doing any of your intuitive practices.
If you’re buying online, Mountain Rose Herbs is a great resource with a lot of options if you’re not able to find a local herbalist or apothecary to support. They often get their products from smaller farms so you may still be supporting smaller businesses through Mountain Rose.
Other options, Jamesa Hawthorne’s website, jamhawherbals.com has a sourcing guide for you if you want to and she notes places that are Black-owned, queer-owned, and what types of products they offer.
Now you know why biohacking in the broad cultural conversation isn’t designed with lunar bodies in mind, how aligning with your cycle can be your own sustainable and personalized form of biohacking, and some herbs to help you develop your intuition as you work towards building a stronger relationship with yourself and your mind and your body.
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